Expatriate Owl

A politically-incorrect perspective that does not necessarily tow the party line, on various matters including but not limited to taxation, academia, government and religion.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Waiting for Hurricane Irene

Well, folks, Hurricane Irene will soon make landfall somewhere on Long Island. If trends on the National Hurricane Center's webpage do not significantly deviate, the landfall will likely occur in or near Long Beach, which is in Nassau County, not too far from the border with Queens Borough in New York City.

There is an evacuation order for certain low-lying portions of New York City, including much of Lower Manhattan (including Wall Street) and the Rockaway Peninsula in Queens. Many people are ignoring the evacuation order, and, quite frankly, I do not blame them. For one thing, the shelters provided by New York City are notoriously problematic for those who seek shelter in them, what with the gangs that effectively rule them, and the City's impotence to control such gangs. Moreover, many are very skeptical if not cynical regarding whether Big Brother (up to and including Mayor Bloomberg himself) really, really has their best interests in mind, including the ability of the local police to protect their homes and businesses from looters. And, of course, there are some who see possible financial gain in the looting opportunities that will surely be presented.

I have heard that Riker's Island (which houses New York City's prison complex) is not included in the evacuation order. This is reassuring, although I am somewhat concerned for the corrections officers there. But they should be all right.

My own abode is inland, and on high ground, and, once the storm passes, our main concern will be possible power outages, which conceivably might persist for a few days. But we have taken adequate precautions, including having placed lots of orange juice cartons, cold packs, and other heat sink in our big freezer. In the event of a prolonged power outage, we could transfer some of those frozen OJ cartons into our fridges (we have an additional refrigerator in our garage, which now contains mostly soda, yogurt and beer) and most of our food should stay adequately preserved.

Across the border from New York City on Long Island (Nassau and Suffolk Counties), there are evacuation orders in effect for low-lying areas as well, specifically, everything south of Sunrise Highway. As in NYC, many in such areas of Long Island are also ignoring the evacuation orders.

One such individual who has chosen to stay put is my son. His apartment is in one of the evacuation zones, but he is now with a friend, also in the evacuation zone but on slightly higher ground, slightly further inland. They have adequate provisions to wait out the storm, and seem to be taking prudent measures for the situation.

For reasons unrelated to the hurricane, my son's vehicle (actually titled in my name) is currently inoperative. My wife was contemplating driving down to where he is to bring him back to the empty parental nest, but I talked her out of it. Our son needs to make his own decisions, and abide with the consequences of his decisions, foul and fair. If he wanted to come back here, he could find a way to do so. But he doesn't, and so, he will be waiting out the storm. Moreover, he is more accessible to his places of employment (he works 2 jobs, each in the restaurant/fast food industry), either or both of which would open if it could.

For years, I have been saying that it is only a matter of time before Atlantic City is hit by a hurricane on a Labor Day weekend. Evacuation would be a nightmare. This year, Hurricane Irene is only a week off, and a few miles removed from the Atlantic City boardwalk. It could be a lot worse for them.

As for us, we will be sitting this one out and dealing with it as best we can.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Redirecting Public Funds to the Victim

The term "Midrash" refers, collectively, to various rabbinic writings which elucidate the Torah and the Prophets through various explanations and, in many cases, fables. The latter type would be analogous to the fable about George Washington chopping down the cherry tree. Whether he actually did is not certain (and, in fact, more unlikely than not), but the fable is used to illustrate Washington's attribute of honesty.

Some Midrashic fables similarly elucidate various matters in the Torah.

One famous one spotlights the wickedness of the city of Sodom. Abraham's servant Eliezer was attacked by some Sodomites (capital "S" denoting residency or origin in the City of Sodom, and not necessarily sexual practices or preferences) and was bleeding. Eliezer brought suit in the courts of Sodom. The judge ruled that Eliezer owed money to the Sodomites who had beaten him because they had performed the service of bloodletting (which, in those days, was almost universally believed to have curative effects).

Eliezer then threw a rock at the judge, causing the judge to bleed. Eliezer then said to the judge, "Pay them what you owe me!"

I thought about that Midrash story when I read the case of New York State Victim Services v. Murray.

James Murray, New York State Inmate No. 95-A-4417, is doing time for his conviction on a sex offence charge. Murray has been in the Big House since about 1995, and, during his residency there, encountered an overzealous corrections officer who used excessive force against him. Murray sued, and won a judgment against the State of New York.

The New York State Victim Services believes, and I agree, that restitution to Murray's victim should take precedence over Murray's use and enjoyment of the money (never mind that the taxpayers are footing the bill either way). And so, the NYSVS won a preliminary injunction against the State depositing the funds into Murray's inmate account.

The game has not yet ended, but the results are predictable with a high degree of certainty. The money will eventually go to Murray's victim, but not before plenty of public resources and dollars are expended to give Murray his due process. It's not a good thing, but it is far, far better than Murray getting the money.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A Confirmation of my Observation

As those of you who follow the Lagniappe's Lair blog have been informed, I had a brief but delightful meeting with Murphy's Law during my current visit to Washington. Unfortunately, Murphy was back guarding the Lair, and accordingly, not in on the rendezvous.

The prior posting on this Blog is dated Tuesday 16 August at 3:01 AM. This is the time as reckoned for the Greenwich Prime Meridian (known in military parlance as "Zulu Time"). Subtract 5 hours to get the time for the Eastern United States. The prior posting was done on Monday night.

At the time of the prior posting, I had not read the Washington Times for Tuesday 16 August 2011. On the last page of Section C (it would have been Page 10 if it were numbered) is the article by Patrick Hruby entitled "Obama Souvenir Sales in Tailspin," which effectively confirmed the observations and conclusions of the prior posting to this Blog. I noticed that the quantities of Barack Hussein Obama trinkets and paraphernalia on display in the hotel gift shop were plentiful, made inquiry to the woman at the cash register as to how well they were selling, and the woman confirmed to me that the sales were on the sparse side. I posted it on this Blog. The Washington Times provided confirmation. But you read it here first!

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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Market Studies and Analyses

Companies pay marketing specialists millions of dollars to do studies in advance of product launches, real estate development projects, musical and dramatic and cinematic ventures, et cetera.

But then again, many entrepreneurs have extrapolated marketing data from a single isolated incident, and based upon such extrapolations, have gone on to earn respectable amounts of money and/or fame.

Such was the case with a number of automobile racetracks, whose founders figured, correctly, that the multiple spectators present at police busts of drag racing contests in abandoned parking lots were a viable customer base for a legitimate racetrack.

And, if legend is to be believed, back when Atlantic City was still Atlantic City (i.e., before the casinos), a little girl's enjoyment of a candy merchant's wares which were damaged by wind-driven water from the ocean gave rise to the Salt Water Taffy industry.

I am now in Washington, attending a conference and, as usual, enjoying the town. In some of the uberliberal neighborhoods, many of the cars have Obama stickers. But the lady in the gift shop of the hotel where I am ensconced told me that the Barack Hussein Obama coffee mugs, bookmarks, fridge magnets and other paraphernalia are not selling as well as the other tourist trinkets without BHO's picture.

During my first visit to our Nation's Capital, back when I was 6 years old, my sister and I wanted souvenirs with pictures of President Kennedy, just like all the other youngsters and oldsters were getting. I am not a marketing expert, but if the tourist trade is not putting down its money dollars on the St. Barack relics, then maybe the guy in the Oval Office has reason to be concerned.

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Monday, August 15, 2011

Inside and Outside

Here is the first paragraph of Judge Joan M. Genchi's decision in A.B. v. C.D., 2011 NY Slip Op 51404(U) (Family Court, Suffolk County):

"In this proceeding brought pursuant to Article 8 of the Family Court Act, the petitioner, A.B., filed a Family Offense Petition on April 7, 2011 which alleges that the respondent, C.D., her husband, committed the following family offenses: Harassment in the first or second degree; Aggravated harassment in the second degree; Menacing in the second or third degree; and Reckless Endangerment approximately between December 2009 and January 2010 and again in October 2010 during conjugal visits at the Elmira Correctional facility where the respondent was incarcerated. The petition alleges numerous attempts by the respondent to communicate with the petitioner, either by mail, telephone, texting, or through third-party contact with the petitioner. The respondent has since been transferred to Southport Correctional Facility where he is serving a sentence of 28 years to life for the murder of his deceased former wife's husband, and for other convictions. The parties had a child on August 31, 2004, and they were married on January 14, 2006 at the Clinton Correctional Facility. On April 4, 2010, the respondent had divorce papers served on the petitioner."

So here we have a woman who marries a man who is doing an indeterminate sentence of 28 years to life on a murder conviction. Don't let the number 28 throw you; it is the theoretical date when the inmate can start with the biennial petitions to the Parole Board. And in New York, it is very rare that those convicted of a violent offense get paroled the first time before the Board.

Then this woman decides to divorce the guy. Not a bad move, given the predicament she got herself into. But then, after filing the divorce papers, she continued with the conjugal visits at the State Penitentiary.

And now, she wants an order of protection from the guy who is incarcerated (and apparently in solitary confinement).

Judge Genchi declined to award an order of protection, inasmuch as the incarcerated husband does not present a danger to the estranged wife (estranged, that is, when she's not up at the State Pen on a conjugal visit).

So what do we now have? (A) A violent felon who is now confined behind bars for the next 20+ (and perhaps 30+) years; (B) A ditzy bimbo who doesn't want said violent felon to bother her, but who is not above going up to the Big House for a conjugal visit with him; and (C) a seven-year-old child who has two piss-poor role models in his/her life, one on the inside and the other on the outside.

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Sunday, August 14, 2011

Society's Investment in Felons

It seems that Diane McCloud couldn't stop stealing if her life depended on it. As reported here, here and here, Judge Francis Ricigliano had seen fit to show the 47-year-old Ms. McCloud some humane compassion by springing her from jail so that she would be eligible for the waiting list for a heart transplant. But Judge Ricigliano's humane compassion does have its limits, and Ms. McCloud pushed them too far with her 27th felony arrest last month. She now has to complete the sentence Judge Ricigliano cut short, plus serve the one on the latest charges for which she has pled guilty -- stealing cosmetics and diet pills from a CVS Pharmacy. Her incarceration puts her off of the waiting list for the heart transplant.

[I am, of course, rather skeptical regarding medical death prognoses for ill prisoners. Susan Atkins was supposed to have only 3 months left when she petitioned the California Parole Board for compassionate release, and she lived another year-and-a-half. Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi, the "Lockerbie Bomber," was released on "compassionate" grounds because he was given 3 months to live, and, nearly 2 years later, is still alive and revered as a hero in Libya.]

If indeed the purpose of the criminal justice system is to rehabilitate those who can be rehabilitated, then society must be willing to invest in people who have been convicted of crimes. Judge Ricigliano was willing to invest in McCloud, but, like any prudent investor, decided to cut society's losses when the investment went sour.

Some people have been successfully rehabilitated by the system, and are worthy of society's investment. Judge Denny Chin believes (and I agree) that Vernon Lawson is one of them. Lawson, who served 13 years in prison for killing his wife, has, in Judge Chin's opinion, completely turned his life around, and should be granted his citizenship so that he can remain in America. Anent to the case of Lawson v. U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services, the following observations are now proffered:

1. Judge Chin is himself a naturalized American citizen.

2. Judge Chin is not reticent to incarcerate those who truly deserve incarceration. Remember that it was Judge Chin who sentenced Bernie Madoff to 150 years.

3. The USCIS's misplaced zeal in denying Vernon Lawson's application for citizenship stands in contradistinction to USCIS's willingness to hold America's door open for Muslim terrorists, Mexican drug dealers, and other assorted thugs and thieves.

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Friday, August 12, 2011

The Talmud, Water and Cell Phones

A few weeks ago, my Rabbi admonished/begged the congregation that we need to be more fervent and concentrating in our praying during the services. He's not wrong on that score. We all do our share of talking during the services, which we really shouldn't be doing (though it isn't nearly as extensive as certain other congregations with which I am acquainted). Every once in a while, we need to be reminded of Whom we stand before.

This evening, the talking during the davening was relatively restrained. The problem was that someone's cell phone went off. Not quite four years ago, I posted on this issue, noting that when the cell phone that distracts our concentration belongs to a rabbi then there's much rabbinical credibility to be lost.

[I note that there are a number of rabbis besides our main "pulpit rabbi" who join us on a somewhat regular basis for the afternoon/evening services. They do things like oversee kosher food preparation at the local old age home, or watch over the dead at one of the local funeral establishments, or, in one case, the "pulpit rabbi" from a congregation in a neighboring town (who happened to have been my son's 6th grade Religious Studies teacher at the Jewish day school) whose own congregation has trouble during the week with making Minyan (a minimum prayer quorum of 10 Jewish males over the age of 13).].

In any event, the cell phone one of these other rabbis went off during the davening, so what did this rabbi do? He kept on davening until he was finished, which took perhaps a minute or two. And the other guys in the Minyan (about 14 of us) were all distracted.

Afterward, I went up to our congregation's "pulpit rabbi" and asked him what happens in the following situation: Two men are traveling in the desert, away from civilization. One has a canteen of water, the other does not. The man with the canteen has enough water to make it to civilization, but if he shares his water with his companion, the neither will be able to reach civilization alive.

That hypothetical was answered almost 2,000 years ago by Rabbi Akiva, who ruled that it is better that only one man perish than to have both men die. Rabbi Akiva's ruling is recorded in the Talmud [Bava Metzia 62a]. In modern times, it comes up with some degree of frequency in discussions regarding health care rationing.

So, of course, my Rabbi quoted Rabbi Akiva's pronouncement to me (as though I had never heard of the Akiva's famous ruling). He wondered what my ulterior motive was, and didn't have to wait long to find out.

I then asked him, "Which is preferable, one man being distracted from prayer for a few seconds to turn off the cell phone which should have been turned off before he began davening in the first place, or fifteen men being distracted because the first guy does not turn off his cell phone?"

The Rabbi laughed. It would not surprise me if, after I left, he had a little private discussion with the other rabbi who wouldn't turn off his ringing cell phone.

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Wednesday, August 03, 2011

The Wisdom of Vilna

Throughout history, various political powers held sway in what is now Lithuania. Depending upon the ruling powers, and/or the language, the city that is now (and has long been) the administrative capital of the territory has been known variously as Wilno, Vilna, Wilna, Vilnya, and, officially today, Vilnius.

For many centuries prior to World War II, Vilna had a significant Jewish population, and was renown as a center of Jewish culture and learning. The Nazi ravages of World War II, of course, decimated Vilna's Jewish population.

Perhaps the most famous Jewish resident of Vilna was Rabbi Eliyahu ben Shlomo Zalman Kramer, known as the Vilna Gaon, or Genius of Vilna. The Vilna Gaon had memorized the Torah and numerous other books, religious and secular. He was quite erudite in mathematics and astronomy.

Describing someone as "not the Vilna Gaon," usually means that they are intellectually challenged.

Like any other city, modern day Vilnius has its traffic enforcement issues. But Mayor Arturas Zuokas has come up with a unique approach to resolving the problem of cars parking illegally and blocking the thoroughfares of the city.

This video is obviously scripted and staged, and obviously had a higher than normal production budget for video clips of its length.

Nobody is claiming that Mayor Zuokas is the Vilna Gaon, but there is something to be said for his new and novel solution to illegal parking. Perhaps some American mayors and police chiefs might find some inspiration!

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Monday, August 01, 2011

Hate Camp

I've returned home from an out-of-town excursion, catching up on my mail pile, and getting ready for what may be shaping up to be another out-of-town excursion.

Summer camp is a big industry in America and elsewhere. There are many camps which are specialized. Music camps. Athletic camps (one of which I attended during my high school jock days). Art camps. Math camps. Science camps. Computer camps. Weight loss camps. Travel camps. Theater & Drama camps. And so on.

These camps are good for the entrepreneurs who run them, and usually good for the children and youth who attend them. Not to mention the privacy the kids' parents get for a few weeks (which my wife and I certainly enjoyed).

The previous posting was about the carnage in Oslo. Following that posting, additional details emerged about the whole affair in Norway. For one thing, the unpreparedness of the Norwegian law enforcement authorities is nothing short of amazing. More notably, the camp operated by the Norwegian Labor Party on Utøya Island was a specialized summer camp. It was a Hate Camp, as further detailed by Nidra Poller and Debbie Schlussel, where hatred for Jews and Israel was part of the agenda, and where the facilities were shared by Islamic terror groups.

Note that Jewish camps do not have such hatred programs against our enemies (of which we have so, so many).

I would be less than candid if I denied that this new info caused me to revisit my empathies with the victims of the massacre at Utøya Island. After all, the "victims" had, just the day before, engaged in an unabashed anti-Semitic exercise sponsored by the camp and blessed by a Norwegian cabinet minister. So yes, I have done some considerable deliberation regarding the previous posting.

But the first line of that posting, "There is no question that Anders Behring Breivik is truly an evil person," is still a highly valid statement. It is not good that he is being glorified in some quarters, and the fact that he has a good chance of walking freely in 21 years is not reassuring. That's a relatively easy one.

More consterning is the statement "My empathies are with the victims, regardless of whatever connections they may have had to the Labor Party in general, and its policies of dhimmitude in particular." There is, after all, a certain justice in the killing of the enemies of Israel and the Jewish people, and I do see G-d's hand in that. Nevertheless, those indoctrinated youth could have been my children, or, for that matter, me. They were victims of the Norwegian Labor Party's hatred and anti-Semitism.

So, even as I appreciate the justice of the Divine Retribution, I regret the loss of lives. Were I to go celebrate and exult, then I would be no better than the Labor Party, and I myself might just as well go to Hate Camp for a summer.

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